question not to ask sales prospectsAsking the right questions is the key to making the sale. In my sales training seminars, I go so far as to provide attendees with as many as forty custom-designed questions to ask their prospects.

There’s one question, however, that’s never among them. Because it should be avoided at all costs. That question is:


Okay, right now, that’s exactly what you’re wondering: “Why?”

Here’s the reason.

Questions that begin with “why” sound judgmental. They put people on the defensive. If I were to ask you “Why did you do that?” or “Why do you think that?” or “Why is that important to you?”, how would you feel?

Like you had to justify yourself? Like you were being belittled? Like I was impugning your judgment, intelligence or character?

That’s exactly how “why” questions make a person feel. It isn’t our intention to make them feel that way, it’s simply an unfortunate product of the emotional baggage the word “why” carries with it. Which means, whenever you ask a prospect a “why” question, you’re making them uncomfortable and causing them to like and trust you less.

Try this instead: Change “why” questions into “what” or “how” questions. For example, you could rephrase the above three questions as follows:
• “What caused you to do that?”
• “How did you come to think that way?”
• “What’s the reason that’s important to you?”

Notice how different these questions seem, even though they’re asking basically the same thing. They don’t sound like a personal attack, the way their previous incarnations do.

When you perform a “why-ectomy” on your probing questions, your prospect will be more comfortable and confident. And the more comfortable and confident they get, the closer they are to buying.